Written By: Patrick Foster
If you’re new to the world of eCommerce or starting your first side hustle in 2017, then congratulations – you have an exciting project ahead of you. Like any business, an eCommerce startup requires a lot of work, knowledge, and patience: not to mention a passion for your products. That being said, the world of digital offers many ways to make life easier, such that the barrier for entry is actually pretty low. This is great when you’re starting out, but it also means that competition is high. So how can you approach eCommerce in 2017 to give your business the best chance of survival?
It’s not enough to be on social – you’ve got to know how to use it
We previously wrote an informative post about Using Social Media to Retain eCommerce Customers. Only the foolhardy would ignore the benefits of social media in this day and age – but with everybody and their mother doing it, how can you stand out in a meaningful way and drive quality traffic to your store?
The secret to social media is to share, not sell. Social users don’t engage with out-and-out sales pitches: they are looking for content that’s funny, informative or shareable. Use social media to build relationships and share useful or entertaining insights that establish trust. What’s more, don’t only share your own work. A good way to build a rapport with other industry players is to share their content – and chances are they will do the same for you.
Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram give eCommerce store owners a highly effective way to draw in potential new customers and generate a following. Treat your social media accounts like sub-storefronts and make sure they align with your brand so that they can be easily found and recognized.
One tip: use plenty of imagery. A wealth of research has shown that social engagement improves when images or videos are used. If you can find a good image to share alongside your posts – whether it’s one of your own photographs or a high-quality stock image – you will notice a considerable jump in clicks.
You’ll do better with a solid content strategy
A good content strategy is one of the best ways of gaining social traffic and driving up the SEO ranking of your online store. A standard product page is not particularly shareable, whereas an informative guide or blog post becomes a go-to resource for customers who are researching products before buying. By creating useful content, you can position yourself as an expert in your field and create that all-important thing: trust. So why not start with the basics?
Using a free keyword tool such as Ubersuggest, look up the keywords that users are searching for around your product offering. Not only will this give you ideas to write about, but you may also discover an untapped niche. Product guides are a good place to start, such as these Brewing Guides by Blue Bottle Coffee. Depending on what kind of business you run, you may also want to consider seasonal trends and shopping habits. Whether you offer opinion pieces or simply curate interesting content that you find around the web, a regularly updated blog will help to get your startup noticed.
You need to treat your customers like royalty
An eCommerce business is only as successful as its ability to create customers. And one of the best ways of doing this – and of turning them into loyal (highly valuable) customers – is to offer them an exceptional user experience. This means:
- Having an online store that is seamless and easy to use
- Creating a foolproof checkout process
- Making yourself available to answer customer queries
- Offering fast (and preferably free) delivery
- Personalizing your offering wherever possible
- Offering discounts to regular customers
It’s always worth remembering that humans are impatient and distractible beings, particularly online. Do what you can to ensure that their experience with your store is as pleasant and stress-free as possible. It’s in the little touches, as much as the big decisions. A clear call to action, high-quality photography and a clean, uncluttered interface all serve to help your customers focus.
Be prepared to put the time in
While it is considerably easier to set up an online store than a physical one, you should still expect to spend a considerable amount of time maintaining it. Once you’ve got past the initial honeymoon phase of setting up an online store, you must remember to keep on top of it if you want it to reach its potential. For this reason, alone, it’s always best to start an eCommerce business based on a product you believe in or find interesting. You should be prepared to:
- Always keep a weather eye on eCommerce design, marketing, and customer service trends – and adapt accordingly
- Answer queries and/or complaints from your customers
- Stay in regular contact with your order fulfillment provider, or make regular trips to the post office if you make and distribute products yourself
- Study the analytics of your site to see what’s working and what’s not
- Invest time in your content and marketing strategies to drive traffic to your site
Know the value of SEO vs. PPC – and which to invest in
In the long-term, generating search traffic is where you want to be investing a large portion of your marketing budget. This is where those all-important users doing their product research will find you. But should you invest in SEO or PPC? Well, it depends on where you’re at.
Pay-Per-Click ads are the sponsored ads that appear at the top of Google. They are instantaneous and a good bet while you’re just starting out to get your store some visibility. However, they are not the best strategy long-term.
Organic search results are more popular with users, as we know that the websites have got there purely on merit. In fact, organic results are 8.5x more likely to be clicked on than paid search results. Establishing a strong SEO strategy is a more long-term endeavor than buying a couple of PPC ads here and there, but the end result is worth it. There are a number of ways to improve your SEO profile, from content marketing and guest blogging to optimizing on-site content such as titles, alt tags, and metadata.
What direction will you take your online store in this year? Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been running your online emporium for a year or more, there are always new things to learn about the digital marketplace. Let us know what you’ve learned, and what you plan to implement in 2017. We look forward to reading your comments.
Patrick Foster is an Ecommerce Expert & Business Owner who writes engaging e-commerce content for new and seasoned entrepreneurs and business owners alike. He hopes to shed some light on what works and what doesn’t – as well as emerging trends that e-commerce merchants should be aware of.